One of the side effects of the explosion of media choices is the new reality that unless you can keep the consumer's interest, they can easily switch their focus to alternatives. One of the key issues for media outlets in the future will be how can they track and maintain people's interest in their product - that is, can they keep people engaged.It's been thought that engagement is a pressing problem for broadcasting - that viewing or listening behaviors are traditionally passive. In an era when there were few outlets, differentiated product, and largely habitual viewing/listening, this wasn't a big issue - outlets could thrive on sharing largely habitual audiences. But as channels and new media outlets joined the market, merely splitting that audience yielded fewer and fewer viewers and listeners and smaller revenues. And then came online video, streaming services, connected devices, and mobile devices, which not only offered more choice, but facilitated a shift in consumption patterns from passive and habitual to a more active media content consumer. Mobile and social media are showing themselves to be a disruptive entry in the media content marketplace, with many studies showing their widespread use during TV viewing in particular.
The question is whether such "second screen" behavior complements TV viewing, or a substitute for it, pushing the TV signal into the viewer's background, or replaces traditional TV on the big screen. My guess, and what early studies seem to suggest is that it's more likely to be a substitute, at least for traditional content designed for passive viewing.
Some video broadcast channels and programmers, however, see an opportunity to take advantage of second screens and social media as complements to their programming that allow greater involvement and engagement of a growing active audience. "Social TV" is the name for such efforts, where TV content purposely tries to incorporate added online content accessible through mobile devices or encourages viewer participation in social media related to the program.
A new study released by the Time Warner Research Council suggested that, for Social TV programs at least, second screen and social media use while watching TV can result in a more engaged audience, augmenting their use of TV rather than distracting from it.
"The most important overall finding is to understand that people use media to optimize their levels of interest and excitement," said Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer at Turner Broadcasting, a Time Warner unit that collaborated with the research council, sibling Warner Bros. and the research companies Innerscope and Ipsos. "When they find something engaging on the TV, they pay attention. When their interest wanes, in the absence of a second screen they could change the channel, get up, read a magazine, etc. With a second screen that allows live social engagement, they have more reason to stay on-channel with their friend."The study used biometric monitoring and eye-tracking to look at viewing interest and behaviors of a sample of 128 young adults in an experimental setting. The experiment asked participants to watch specific TV programs under various viewing conditions (alone, watching with a friend, using various social media. The study found a statistically significant increase (30%) in the level of viewer engagement when using social media or watching with a friend, than under the condition of watching alone with no access to social media. The study also found a smaller, but still statistically significant, increase (20%) in engagement when people used connected devices to access co-viewing apps designed to deliver added content or a platform for real-time conversation. The study also found that viewers tended to respond to audio cues in the TV program or commercials, even while online. This suggests a level of cognitive engagement with TV content even when viewers' primary focus is elsewhere. There was also some evidence that study participants "appreciated" advertisers associated with co-viewing apps.
The study and its results, while very limited, does suggest that TV outlets, channels, and programming sources can take some proactive steps to build audience involvement and engagement in an increasingly competitive media marketplace. Steps that could make their content and channel more valuable to a potential audience, as well as to advertisers.
Source - Social TV Keeps Viewers Engaged When Minds Might Wander, Study Says, AdAge Media News